MACCLENNY, Fla. – A missing person and a ransom note are part of a nightmare for a Baker County family.
Micahl Dominic Ruise, 22, has been missing since Feb. 5, and his loved ones want to know what happened to him.
On Sunday, his mother thought she had a lead when she said she got a random text message demanding she pay a ransom for his safe return.
Now, police are investigating his disappearance and the mysterious message, which could likely be a scam.
“The feeling is unreal,” said Tamica Lee, as she waited for information about her son’s disappearance. “Worry is like an understatement.”
He was in a fight with his girlfriend, who accused him of hurting her child, which he vehemently denied. Then he vanished.
“He was very upset about the accusation,” she said. “He really was. There are people who have the reason to be angry.”
Ruise had been living in Macclenny with his family, but before he disappeared, he was staying with his girlfriend in Lake City, and he was last spotted at the IHOP restaurant on U.S. 90.
Lake City police are leading the investigation, calling him a “missing and endangered person.” The family has also been circulating flyers, which led to the ransom demand.
“If I wanted him back, we had to give them $8,000,” Lee recalled about the anonymous text message to her cellphone, which was listed on the missing person flyer.
She suspected it was a scam, but as a worried mother, she felt she had to text back.
“I told them to send me a picture to show this is real,” she said.
Whoever was on the other end gave her the runaround, threatening to kill her son if she told police, Lee said. They never produced a photo, and later, after she questioned them, stopped responding.
“So I’m like, 'Hey, I have the money. Where you at?’ And then it was ghost,” she said.
The likely fraud scheme was hurtful for Ruise’s family, desperate for answers.
“It’s kind of sad that someone would take a situation like this. But you have people that don’t have anything to do. And you people that feed on other people’s losses,” Lee said.
Lee and her loved ones are continuing chasing every lead they get, praying for the best. They’re holding out hope that Ruise is safe somewhere and sees their cry for help.
“You have nothing to be ashamed of,” Lee said. “You can come home, I don’t care what anyone says. You’re my child. You’ve got people that love you.”
Ruise is 6 feet tall, 150 pounds, with brown eyes. If you know where he is you’re asked to call the Lake City Police Department at (386) 752-4343. Lee is also accepting tips on her cellphone at 904-408-8158.